Friday, October 3, 2014

Medicus by Ruth Downie

Medicus: A Novel of the Roman Empire by Ruth Downie --- 386 pages

Gaius Petreius Ruso is a divorced and down-on his luck army doctor who has made the rash decision to improve his fortunes in a remote outpost of the Roman Empire, namely Britannia.  His arrival in Deva (now known as Chester, England) does little to improve his mood. After a thirty six hour shift as the only doctor on duty at the army hospital, in a moment of sheer exhaustion he recklessly rescues an injured slave girl, Tilla, from the hands of her abusive owner.

Now he has a new problem: a slave who won’t talk, can’t cook, and drags Ruso from one scrape into another.  Before he knows what's happened, Ruso finds himself investigating the deaths of several slaves who disappeared from a local brothel much patronized by the army, when he should be devoting his spare time to writing his Concise Guide to Military First Aid, the project that he hopes will repair his battered fortunes and dig his family farm back home in Gaul out of debt.

How has he come to this, Ruso wonders. Onlya few years ago he rescued the late Emperor Trajan from a collapsed building during an earthquake in Antioch, Then his prospects looked rosy; how has he fallen to this: overworked, underpaid, ridden with debt, and caught between the ruthless imperialism of the Roman occupation and the smoldering resentment of the native tribes, And now Ruso must use all his skills to solve the killings before Tilla becomes the next target.

Who are the real barbarians here, the British or the Romans?  With acerbic humor, psychological insight and historical detail, Ruth Downie shows us that times and circumstances may vary but human nature remains much the same despite the passage of twenty centuries.

This is the first in what has become a series of novels about Ruso and Tilla's adventures.

No comments:

Post a Comment